The best national forests in the United States

These national forests are among the top in the United States, from New Mexico’s sky islands to Vermont’s golden leaves.

Often overshadowed by its better-known sibling, the National Park SystemThe best U.S. national forests offer the greatest natural beauty and wonders of America.

As overseen by the U.S. Forest Service, the National Forest System helps preserve hundreds of millions of acres; the Forest Reserve Act of 1891 was signed into law in reaction to years of logging that devastated the nation’s once vast eastern forests. Today, America has more than 150 National Forests, and we’re here to help you determine which ones to prioritize next time you head out on an amazing road trip or looking for solitude on a solo trip.

To giant redwoods in California to the vast lake network in Minnesota, these pristine stretches of wilderness—most of them containing millions of acres—draw visitors with first-class hiking, biking, camping and canoeing, while also protecting and housing thousands of endangered species such as hawks, wolves and raptors. This vast area of land is a protector of habitats, wildlife and communities which have existed for a much longer time than the U.S. When you consider travelling to the United States, you should experience all it has to offer.

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The best national forests

Tongass National Forest, Alaska

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1. Tongass National Forest (Alaska)

Tongass National Forest covers 16.5 million acres. It is also larger and more diverse than other states at this size. The wilderness of Alaska is home to huge Sitka and western hemlock trees as well as cedar trees. Some are even up to 800 year old. The national forest also contains majestic glaciers, icefields and other wildlife. Tongass National Forest covers more than one third of the country. It protects natural habitats such as brown bears and black bears, mountain goats and black-tailed deer. 

The best things to do in Alaska 

Bridger-Teton National Forest, Wyoming

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2. Wyoming, Bridger-Teton National Forest

Bridger-Teton National Forest, which is part the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem has 1.2 Million acres. The land includes meadows, glaciers, limestone peaks as well hundreds of miles worth of protected streams and river. The forest’s big geological attraction is the Gros Ventre Slide Geologic Area, a long, rubble-strewn scar left behind by an infamous 1925 landslide that blocked the Gros Ventre River and created the five-mile-long Lower Slide Lake.

Superior National Forest, Minnesota

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3. Superior National Forest (Minnesota)

One of the most popular tracts of public land in the US, Superior can get packed with adventurous travelers who want to kayak, hike, fish, ski and paddle the famous canoe trails of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The 1 million-acre sanctuary is formed by an ancient glacier along Canada’s border. This paradise features rugged cliffs, steep hills, canyon walls and sandy beaches. Superior National Forest also houses some incredible wildelife including America’s only remaining gray wolf population. 

The best things to do in Minnesota

Cibola National Forest, New Mexico

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4. New Mexico: Cibola National Forest

Sky islands are not what you might think of when thinking of southwest. But, that is exactly what makes up the Cibola National forest in New Mexico. It covers 1.6 million acres. These mountain ranges, which are surrounded by grasslands, can rise to elevations up to 11,300 feet. Don’t miss the Sandia Peak Tramway, the nation’s longest, which carries visitors for 2.7 miles to the top for panoramic views of Albuquerque and the Rio Grande Valley. 

The best things to do in New Mexico

Sierra National Forest, California

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5. Sierra National Forest, California

Sierra National Forest can be overshadowed sometimes by world-famous visitors like Yosemite National Park or Sequoia National Park. But there is plenty of space for everyone within this 12,000,000-acre area of wilderness. Covering hundreds of miles through California and Nevada, the Sierra Nevada offers towering mountains, granite formations, sub-alpine meadows and crystal-clear lakes as well as sections of both the John Muir Trail and the Pacific Crest trail. 

The best things to do in California 

Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests, North Carolina

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6. Pisgah National Forests (North Carolina)

The duo national forests of North Carolina are the ideal place for fall foliage lovers. Every year, the two forests (totally about 1 million acres including 200 miles of the Appalachian Trail!) The forests turn deep reds, yellows, and oranges, illuminating the Blue Ridge Mountains with a glowing glow. But if you can’t make it in the fall, Pisgah and Nantahala’s swaths of old oak, hemlock, tulip poplar pine sycamore, dogwood and beech trees make for a glorious sight year-round. 

The best things to do in North Carolina

White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

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7. White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire

White Mountain National Forest, which covers over 800,000 acres of Northeast wilderness, attracts visitors to its world-class skiing, hiking and camping. At its center is the 6,288-foot-high Mount Washington, part of the Presidential Mountain Range, which has long boasted the “world’s worst weather.” The climb up Mount Washington isn’t for the faint-hearted, it must be said. 

The best things to do in New Hampshire

Dixie National Forest, Utah

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8. Utah: Dixie National Forest

Dixie Forest, which stretches for 170 mi across southern Utah is frequently overlooked in favor of nearby destinations such as Zion National Park and Vermilion Cliffs. However, this is changing. Dixie has a large number of ponderosa pines as well as spectacular cliff canyons with stunning colors, such the Red Canyon and its fiery red spires. Other notable spots to add to your itinerary:  Navajo Lake and the scenic Boulder/Grover Road on Boulder Mountain. 

The best things to do in Utah 

Green Mountain National Forest, Vermont

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9. Green Mountain National Forest (Vt.

Head to Green Mountain at any time of the year and you’ll find something to do:hiking through colorful foliage in fall, camping and canoeing in summer, picnicing  among wildflowers in spring. But winter is the best time to visit this Vermont wilderness, when the forest transforms into a snow-lover’s playground. Green Mountain has three Nordic ski areas as well as seven alpine areas. It also offers snowmobiles and snowshoes and trails. 

The best things to do in Vermont

Washington and Jefferson National Forests, Virginia

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10. Virginia: Washington and Jefferson National Forests

The two national forests of Washington and Jefferson were combined in 1950s. They stretch from Virginia to West Virginia along the Appalachian Mountains. These forests are a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering ideal conditions to hike, bike, ski, ride on horseback, and watch hawks. GWJNF also has 2,300 miles worth of streams and 40 species trees. There are 60 animals, 50 endangered species, and 60 plants. 

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